Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet (2)Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Broadway Books. 368 pages. 2012

Hi, I’m Bill, and I’m an introvert.

Over the course of a few months I had three people that I respect recommend this book to me. I always test as an introvert in personality tests and when the Kindle edition went on sale I decided to read the book. I’m glad I did, it was one of the most interesting books that I’ve read in some time.

Even though I’ve held a variety of different leadership positions (business, industry, church) for more than 35 years I never went looking for a career in leadership. I see leadership as a calling now, but it wasn’t something that I went looking for. My start in leadership came when working for a cleaning contract company that cleans the corporate offices of the organization that I now work for back in the late 1970’s. I was working as a general cleaner for minimum wage while going to college. After a while, I was asked to be a floor supervisor, then a building supervisor, then an area supervisor/manager. Before I knew it, I was standing up and leading crew meetings in front of 60 people. But I was shy and so this was out of my comfort zone.

I remember getting comments on my report cards in junior high school that “Bill lacks confidence”. My family will tell you that on family vacations I will often disappear for hours – canoeing, bike riding, walking or reading.

I test as an introvert on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) assessment as INTJ. The first time I took the assessment about ten years ago I remember being concerned that the analysis included with the short online version of the assessment I took indicated that those who hold my profile are not equipped to be good leaders.

This book is well written and very interesting. The author uses a tremendous amount of medical research to complement case studies. She writes:

“If there is only one insight you take away from this book, though, I hope it’s a newfound sense of entitlement to be yourself”.

I highlighted a number of passages in this helpful book, and want to share many of those with you below in this lengthy overview. If you are an introvert, work with or are married to an introvert or have children who are introverts, I highly recommend you read the entire book. It includes insights that are equally helpful on and off the job.

• Our lives are shaped as profoundly by personality as by gender or race. And the single most important aspect of personality—the “north and south of temperament,” as one scientist puts it—is where we fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.
• Yet today we make room for a remarkably narrow range of personality styles. We’re told that to be great is to be bold, to be happy is to be sociable. We see ourselves as a nation of extroverts—which means that we’ve lost sight of who we really are. Depending on which study you consult, one third to one half of Americans are introverts—in other words, one out of every two or three people you know If you’re not an introvert yourself, you are surely raising, managing, married to, or coupled with one.
• It makes sense that so many introverts hide even from themselves. We live with a value system that I call the Extrovert Ideal—the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight. The archetypal extrovert prefers action to contemplation, risk-taking to heed-taking, certainty to doubt. He favors quick decisions, even at the risk of being wrong. She works well in teams and socializes in groups.
• In this book we’ll see how figures like Eleanor Roosevelt, Al Gore, Warren Buffett, Gandhi—and Rosa Parks—achieved what they did not in spite of but because of their introversion.
• Yet, as Quiet will explore, many of the most important institutions of contemporary life are designed for those who enjoy group projects and high levels of stimulation.
• But what do contemporary researchers have to say? I soon discovered that there is no all-purpose definition of introversion or extroversion.
• There are almost as many definitions of introvert and extrovert as there are personality psychologists, who spend a great deal of time arguing over which meaning is most accurate. Some think that Jung’s ideas are outdated; others swear that he’s the only one who got it right.
• Still, today’s psychologists tend to agree on several important points: for example, that introverts and extroverts differ in the level of outside stimulation that they need to function well.
• Many psychologists would also agree that introverts and extroverts work differently.
• Extroverts tend to tackle assignments quickly. They make fast (sometimes rash) decisions, and are comfortable multitasking and risk-taking. They enjoy “the thrill of the chase” for rewards like money and status.
• Introverts often work more slowly and deliberately. They like to focus on one task at a time and can have mighty powers of concentration. They’re relatively immune to the lures of wealth and fame.
• Our personalities also shape our social styles.
• Extroverts are the people who will add life to your dinner party and laugh generously at your jokes. They tend to be assertive, dominant, and in great need of company. Extroverts think out loud and on their feet; they prefer talking to listening, rarely find themselves at a loss for words, and occasionally blurt out things they never meant to say. They’re comfortable with conflict, but not with solitude. Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pajamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
• Nor are introverts necessarily shy. Shyness is the fear of social disapproval or humiliation, while introversion is a preference for environments that are not overstimulating.
• Dale Carnegie’s metamorphosis from farmboy to salesman to public-speaking icon is also the story of the rise of the Extrovert Ideal.
• America had shifted from what the influential cultural historian Warren Susman called a Culture of Character to a Culture of Personality
• In the Culture of Character, the ideal self was serious, disciplined, and honorable. What counted was not so much the impression one made in public as how one behaved in private.
• But when they embraced the Culture of Personality, Americans started to focus on how others perceived them. They became captivated by people who were bold and entertaining.
• One of the most powerful lenses through which to view the transformation from Character to Personality is the self-help tradition in which Dale Carnegie played such a prominent role.
• But nowhere was the need to appear self-assured more apparent than in a new concept in psychology called the inferiority complex.
• Despite the hopeful tone of this piece, child guidance experts of the 1920s set about helping children to develop winning personalities.
• Shyness could lead to dire outcomes, they warned, from alcoholism to suicide, while an outgoing personality would bring social and financial success.
• Well-meaning parents of the midcentury agreed that quiet was unacceptable and gregariousness ideal for both girls and boys.
• When these children grew older and applied to college and later for their first jobs, they faced the same standards of gregariousness.
• The number of Americans who considered themselves shy increased from 40 percent in the 1970s to 50 percent in the 1990s, probably because we measured ourselves against ever higher standards of fearless self-presentation.
• But perhaps the best way to take the measure of the twenty-first-century Culture of Personality is to return to the self-help arena. Today, a full century after Dale Carnegie launched that first public-speaking workshop at the YMCA, his best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People is a staple of airport bookshelves and business best-seller lists. The Dale Carnegie Institute still offers updated versions of Carnegie’s original classes, and the ability to communicate fluidly remains a core feature of the curriculum. Toastmasters, the nonprofit organization established in 1924 whose members meet weekly to practice public speaking and whose founder declared that “all talking is selling and all selling involves talking,” is still thriving, with more than 12,500 chapters in 113 countries.
• At the onset of the Culture of Personality, we were urged to develop an extroverted personality for frankly selfish reasons—as a way of outshining the crowd in a newly anonymous and competitive society. But nowadays we tend to think that becoming more extroverted not only makes us more successful, but also makes us better people. We see salesmanship as a way of sharing one’s gifts with the world.
• Yet even at Harvard Business School there are signs that something might be wrong with a leadership style that values quick and assertive answers over quiet, slow decision-making.
• If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. Yet studies in group dynamics suggest that this is exactly what happens.
• We perceive talkers as smarter than quiet types—even though grade-point averages and SAT and intelligence test scores reveal this perception to be inaccurate.
• We also see talkers as leaders. The more a person talks, the more other group members direct their attention to him, which means that he becomes increasingly powerful as a meeting goes on. It also helps to speak fast; we rate quick talkers as more capable and appealing than slow talkers.
• All of this would be fine if more talking were correlated with greater insight, but research suggests that there’s no such link.
• Contrary to the Harvard Business School model of vocal leadership, the ranks of effective CEOs turn out to be filled with introverts, including Charles Schwab; Bill Gates; Brenda Barnes, CEO of Sara Lee; and James Copeland, former CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
• We tend to overestimate how outgoing leaders need to be.
• But when he analyzed what the highest-performing companies had in common, the nature of their CEOs jumped out at him. Every single one of them was led by an unassuming man like Darwin Smith. Those who worked with these leaders tended to describe them with the following words: quiet, humble, modest, reserved, shy, gracious, mild-mannered, self-effacing, understated. The lesson, says Collins, is clear. We don’t need giant personalities to transform companies. We need leaders who build not their own egos but the institutions they run.
• Grant says it makes sense that introverts are uniquely good at leading initiative-takers. Because of their inclination to listen to others and lack of interest in dominating social situations, introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions.
• Extroverts, on the other hand, can be so intent on putting their own stamp on events that they risk losing others’ good ideas along the way and allowing workers to lapse into passivity.
• But with their natural ability to inspire, extroverted leaders are better at getting results from more passive workers.
• We don’t ask why God chose as his prophet a stutterer with a public speaking phobia. But we should. The book of Exodus is short on explication, but its stories suggest that introversion plays yin to the yang of extroversion; that the medium is not always the message; and that people followed Moses because his words were thoughtful, not because he spoke them well.
• Parks spoke through her actions, and if Moses spoke through his brother Aaron, today another type of introverted leader speaks using the Internet.
• Saddleback also has one more thing in common with Harvard Business School: its debt to—and propagation of—the Culture of Personality.
• Like HBS, evangelical churches often make extroversion a prerequisite for leadership, sometimes explicitly.
• “The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion,” McHugh explained. “The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people. It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out. And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension. It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’d like.’ It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.’
• McHugh added his own voice to this chorus, first with a blog calling for greater emphasis on religious practices of solitude and contemplation, and later with a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He argues that evangelism means listening as well as talking, that evangelical churches should incorporate silence and mystery into religious worship, and that they should make room for introverted leaders who might be able to demonstrate a quieter path to God.
• Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme, McHugh is telling us. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be displayed publicly. introverts prefer to work independently, and solitude can be a catalyst to innovation the New Groupthink—a phenomenon that has the potential to stifle productivity at work and to deprive schoolchildren of the skills they’ll need to achieve excellence in an increasingly competitive world.
• The New Groupthink elevates teamwork above all else. It insists that creativity and intellectual achievement come from a gregarious place.
• The New Groupthink is embraced by many corporations, which increasingly organize workforces into teams, a practice that gained popularity in the early 1990s. By 2000 an estimated half of all U.S. organizations used teams, and today virtually all of them do, according to the management professor Frederick Morgeson.
• Some of these teams are virtual; working together from remote locations, but others demand a tremendous amount of face-to-face interaction, in the form of team-building exercises and retreats, shared online calendars that announce employees’ availability for meetings, and physical workplaces that afford little privacy. Today’s employees inhabit open office plans, in which no one has a room of his or her own, the only walls are the ones holding up the building, and senior executives operate from the center of the boundary-less floor along with everyone else.
• The New Groupthink is also practiced in our schools, via an increasingly popular method of instruction called “cooperative” or “small group” learning.
• In many elementary schools, the traditional rows of seats facing the teacher have been replaced with “pods” of four or more desks pushed together to facilitate countless group learning activities. The New Groupthink did not arise at one precise moment. Cooperative learning, corporate teamwork, and open office plans emerged at different times and for different reasons. But the mighty force that pulled these trends together was the rise of the World Wide Web, which lent both cool and gravitas to the idea of collaboration.
• What’s so magical about solitude? In many fields, Ericsson told me, it’s only when you’re alone that you can engage in Deliberate Practice, which he has identified as the key to exceptional achievement.
• But exceptional performance depends not only on the groundwork we lay through Deliberate Practice; it also requires the right working conditions. And in contemporary workplaces, these are surprisingly hard to come by.
• A mountain of recent data on open-plan offices from many different industries corroborates the results of the games.
• Open-plan offices have been found to reduce productivity and impair memory.
• They’re associated with high staff turnover. They make people sick, hostile, unmotivated, and insecure. Open-plan workers are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and elevated stress levels and to get the flu; they argue more with their colleagues; they worry about coworkers eavesdropping on their phone calls and spying on their computer screens. They have fewer personal and confidential conversations with colleagues. They’re often subject to loud and uncontrollable noise, which raises heart rates; releases cortisol, the body’s fight-or-flight “stress” hormone; and makes people socially distant, quick to anger, aggressive, and slow to help others.
• Another study, of 38,000 knowledge workers across different sectors, found that the simple act of being interrupted is one of the biggest barriers to productivity. Even multitasking, that prized feat of modern-day office warriors, turns out to be a myth. Scientists now know that the brain is incapable of paying attention to two things at the same time.
• If personal space is vital to creativity, so is freedom from “peer pressure.”
• There’s only one problem with Osborn’s breakthrough idea: group brainstorming doesn’t actually work.
• The “evidence from science suggests that business people must be insane to use brainstorming groups,” writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. “If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.”
• The one exception to this is online brainstorming. Groups brainstorming electronically, when properly managed, not only do better than individuals, research shows; the larger the group, the better it performs.
• Peer pressure, in other words, is not only unpleasant, but can actually change your view of a problem.
• The way forward, I’m suggesting, is not to stop collaborating face-to-face, but to refine the way we do it. For one thing, we should actively seek out symbiotic introvert-extrovert relationships, in which leadership and other tasks are divided according to people’s natural strengths and temperaments.
• The most effective teams are composed of a healthy mix of introverts and extroverts, studies show, and so are many leadership structures.
• We also need to create settings in which people are free to circulate in a shifting kaleidoscope of interactions, and to disappear into their private workspaces when they want to focus or simply be alone.
• Our schools should teach children the skills to work with others—cooperative learning can be effective when practiced well and in moderation—but also the time and training they need to deliberately practice on their own. It’s also vital to recognize that many people—especially introverts like Steve Wozniak—need extra quiet and privacy in order to do their best work.
• Are they the result of “nurture”—the way I was raised? Both of my parents are soft-spoken, reflective types; my mother hates public speaking too. Or are they my “nature”—something deep in my genetic makeup?
• Other studies of personality also support the premise that extroversion and introversion are physiologically, even genetically, based.
• None of these studies is perfect, but the results have consistently suggested that introversion and extroversion, like other major personality traits such as agreeableness and conscientiousness, are about 40 to 50 percent heritable.
• Remember that the heritability statistics derived from twin studies show that introversion-extroversion is only 40 to 50 percent heritable. This means that, in a group of people, on average half of the variability in introversion-extroversion is caused by genetic factors.
• To ask whether it’s nature or nurture, says Kagan, is like asking whether a blizzard is caused by temperature or humidity. It’s the intricate interaction between the two that makes us who we are.
• We have free will and can use it to shape our personalities. These seem like contradictory principles, but they are not. Free will can take us far, suggests Dr. Schwartz’s research, but it cannot carry us infinitely beyond our genetic limits.
• We might call this the “rubber band theory” of personality. We are like rubber bands at rest. We are elastic and can stretch ourselves, but only so much. This ability to stretch ourselves—within limits—applies to extroverts, too.
• Even though we can reach for the outer limits of our temperaments, it can often be better to situate ourselves squarely inside our comfort zones.
• To solve Esther’s problem, let’s focus on another difference between introverts and extroverts: their preference for stimulation.
• Stimulation is the amount of input we have coming in from the outside world. It can take any number of forms, from noise to social life to flashing lights.
• Whatever the underlying cause, there’s a host of evidence that introverts are more sensitive than extroverts to various kinds of stimulation, from coffee to a loud bang to the dull roar of a networking event—and that introverts and extroverts often need very different levels of stimulation to function at their best.
• Once you understand introversion and extroversion as preferences for certain levels of stimulation, you can begin consciously trying to situate yourself in environments favorable to your own personality—neither overstimulating nor understimulating, neither boring nor anxiety-making.
• You can organize your life in terms of what personality psychologists call “optimal levels of arousal” and what I call “sweet spots,” and by doing so feel more energetic and alive than before.
• Your sweet spot is the place where you’re optimally stimulated. You probably seek it out already without being aware that you’re doing so.
• Understanding your sweet spot can increase your satisfaction in every arena of your life, but it goes even further than that. Evidence suggests that sweet spots can have life-or-death consequences.
• According to a recent study of military personnel conducted through the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, introverts function better than extroverts when sleep deprived, which is a cortically de-arousing condition (because losing sleep makes us less alert, active, and energetic). Drowsy extroverts behind the wheel should be especially careful—at least until they increase their arousal levels by chugging coffee or cranking up the radio. Conversely, introverts driving in loud, overly arousing traffic noise should work to stay focused, since the noise may impair their thinking.
• For example, highly sensitive people tend to be keen observers who look before they leap. They arrange their lives in ways that limit surprises. They’re often sensitive to sights, sounds, smells, pain, coffee. They have difficulty when being observed (at work, say, or performing at a music recital) or judged for general worthiness (dating, job interviews).
• But there were also new insights. The highly sensitive tend to be philosophical or spiritual in their orientation, rather than materialistic or hedonistic. They dislike small talk. They often describe themselves as creative or intuitive (just as Aron’s husband had described her). They dream vividly, and can often recall their dreams the next day. They love music, nature, art, physical beauty. They feel exceptionally strong emotions—sometimes acute bouts of joy, but also sorrow, melancholy, and fear. Highly sensitive people also process information about their environments—both physical and emotional—unusually deeply. They tend to notice subtleties that others miss—another person’s shift in mood, say, or a lightbulb burning a touch too brightly.
• They tend to have unusually strong consciences. They avoid violent movies and TV shows; they’re acutely aware of the consequences of a lapse in their own behavior. In social settings they often focus on subjects like personal problems, which others consider “too heavy.”
• The connection between sensitivity and conscience has long been observed.
• This is what’s known as the trade-off theory of evolution, in which a particular trait is neither all good nor all bad, but a mix of pros and cons whose survival value varies according to circumstance.
• The trade-off theory seems to apply equally to humans. The trade-off theory may even apply to entire species.
• In most settings, people use small talk as a way of relaxing into a new relationship, and only once they’re comfortable do they connect more seriously. Sensitive people seem to do the reverse.
• I thought that Walker Creek Ranch would make me long for a world of the highly sensitive, a world in which everyone speaks softly and no one carries a big stick. But instead it reinforced my deeper yearning for balance.
• A reward-sensitive person is highly motivated to seek rewards—from a promotion to a lottery jackpot to an enjoyable evening out with friends. Reward sensitivity motivates us to pursue goals like sex and money, social status and influence.
• Sometimes we’re too sensitive to rewards. Reward sensitivity on overdrive gets people into all kinds of trouble.
• Dorn has observed that her extroverted clients are more likely to be highly reward-sensitive, while the introverts are more likely to pay attention to warning signals. They’re more successful at regulating their feelings of desire or excitement. They protect themselves better from the downside.
• Our limbic system, which we share with the most primitive mammals and which Dorn calls the “old brain,” is emotional and instinctive. It comprises various structures, including the amygdala, and it’s highly interconnected with the nucleus accumbens, sometimes called the brain’s “pleasure center.”
• We also have a “new brain” called the neocortex, which evolved many thousands of years after the limbic system. The new brain is responsible for thinking, planning, language, and decision-making—some of the very faculties that make us human. Although the new brain also plays a significant role in our emotional lives, it’s the seat of rationality.
• The old brain and the new brain do work together, but not always efficiently. Sometimes they’re actually in conflict, and then our decisions are a function of which one is sending out stronger signals.
• In fact, some scientists are starting to explore the idea that reward-sensitivity is not only an interesting feature of extroversion; it is what makes an extrovert an extrovert.
• Extroverts, in other words, are characterized by their tendency to seek rewards, from top dog status to sexual highs to cold cash.
• Extroverts tend to experience more pleasure and excitement than introverts do— extroverts seem to get an extra buzz from the pursuit and attainment of their goals.
• Dopamine is the “reward chemical” released in response to anticipated pleasures.
• Extroverts’ dopamine pathways appear to be more active than those of introverts.
• In short, introverts just don’t buzz as easily.
• In some ways, extroverts are lucky; buzz has a delightful champagne-bubble quality. But buzz also has considerable downsides.
• This blindness to danger may explain why extroverts are more likely than introverts to be killed while driving, be hospitalized as a result of accident or injury, smoke, have risky sex, participate in high-risk sports, have affairs, and remarry. It also helps explain why extroverts are more prone than introverts to overconfidence—defined as greater confidence unmatched by greater ability.
• This theory of extroversion is still young, and it is not absolute.
• Still, the theory suggests that we should rethink the roles that introverts and extroverts play in their own lives, and in organizations. It suggests that when it comes time to make group decisions, extroverts would do well to listen to introverts—especially when they see problems ahead.
• Introverts also seem to be better than extroverts at delaying gratification,
• Extroverts get better grades than introverts during elementary school, but introverts outperform extroverts in high school and college.
• One study tested 141 college students’ knowledge of twenty different subjects, from art to astronomy to statistics, and found that introverts knew more than the extroverts about every single one of them. Introverts receive disproportionate numbers of graduate degrees, National Merit Scholarship finalist positions, and Phi Beta Kappa keys.
• They outperform extroverts on the Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal test, an assessment of critical thinking widely used by businesses for hiring and promotion.
• Extroverts appear to allocate most of their cognitive capacity to the goal at hand, while introverts use up capacity by monitoring how the task is going. But introverts seem to think more carefully than extroverts, as the psychologist Gerald Matthews describes in his work. Extroverts are more likely to take a quick-and-dirty approach to problem-solving, trading accuracy for speed, making increasing numbers of mistakes as they go, and abandoning ship altogether when the problem seems too difficult or frustrating. Introverts think before they act, digest information thoroughly, stay on task longer, give up less easily, and work more accurately.
• Introverts and extroverts also direct their attention differently: if you leave them to their own devices, the introverts tend to sit around wondering about things, imagining things, recalling events from their past, and making plans for the future. The extroverts are more likely to focus on what’s happening around them. It’s as if extroverts are seeing “what is” while their introverted peers are asking “what if.”
• Flow is an optimal state in which you feel totally engaged in an activity—whether long-distance swimming or songwriting, sumo wrestling or sex.
• In a state of flow, you’re neither bored nor anxious, and you don’t question your own adequacy. Hours pass without your noticing.
• If you’re an introvert, find your flow by using your gifts. Indeed, your biggest challenge may be to fully harness your strengths.
• In many East Asian classrooms, the traditional curriculum emphasizes listening, writing, reading, and memorization. Talking is simply not a focus, and is even discouraged.
• The Journal of Research in Personality has published an answer to this question in the form of a map of the world drawn by research psychologist Robert McCrae. McCrae’s map looks like something you’d see in a geography textbook, but it’s based, he says, “not on rainfall or population density, but on personality trait levels,” and its shadings of dark and light grays—dark for extroversion, light for introversion—reveal a picture that “is quite clear: Asia … is introverted, Europe extroverted.” Had the map also included the United States, it would be colored dark gray. Americans are some of the most extroverted people on earth.
• So if, deep down, you’ve been thinking that it’s only natural for the bold and sociable to dominate the reserved and sensitive, and that the Extrovert Ideal is innate to humanity, Robert McCrae’s personality map suggests a different truth: that each way of being—quiet and talkative, careful and audacious, inhibited and unrestrained—is characteristic of its own mighty civilization.
• Soft power is not limited to moral exemplars like Mahatma Gandhi. Consider, for example, the much-ballyhooed excellence of Asians in fields like math and science. Professor Ni defines soft power as “quiet persistence,” and this trait lies at the heart of academic excellence as surely as it does in Gandhi’s political triumphs. Quiet persistence requires sustained attention—in effect restraining one’s reactions to external stimuli.
• Psychologists call this the “person-situation” debate: Do fixed personality traits really exist, or do they shift according to the situation in which people find themselves?
• You might wonder how a strong introvert like Professor Little manages to speak in public so effectively. The answer, he says, is simple, and it has to do with a new field of psychology that he created almost singlehandedly, called Free Trait Theory. Little believes that fixed traits and free traits coexist. According to Free Trait Theory, we are born and culturally endowed with certain personality traits—introversion, for example—but we can and do act out of character in the service of “core personal projects.” In other words, introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.
• But Little is far from unique; many people, especially those in leadership roles, engage in a certain level of pretend-extroversion.
• Self-monitors are highly skilled at modifying their behavior to the social demands of a situation. They look for cues to tell them how to act.
• If you want to know how strong a self-monitor you are, here are a few questions from Snyder’s Self-Monitoring Scale: When you’re uncertain how to act in a social situation, do you look to the behavior of others for cues? Do you often seek the advice of your friends to choose movies, books, or music? In different situations and with different people, do you often act like very different people? Do you find it easy to imitate other people? Can you look someone in the eye and tell a lie with a straight face if for a right end? Do you ever deceive people by being friendly when really you dislike them? Do you put on a show to impress or entertain people? Do you sometimes appear to others to be experiencing deeper emotions than you actually are? The more times you answered “yes” to these questions, the more of a high self-monitor you are. Now ask yourself these questions: Is your behavior usually an expression of your true inner feelings, attitudes, and beliefs? Do you find that you can only argue for ideas that you already believe? Would you refuse to change your opinions, or the way you do things, in order to please someone else or win their favor?
• Do you dislike games like charades or improvisational acting? Do you have trouble changing your behavior to suit different people and different situations? The more you tended to answer “yes” to this second set of questions, the more of a low self-monitor you are.
• So if you can fake it, if you master the acting skills, the attention to social nuance, and the willingness to submit to social norms that self-monitoring requires, should you? The answer is that a Free Trait strategy can be effective when used judiciously, but disastrous if overdone.
• I have found that there are three key steps to identifying your own core personal projects.
• First, think back to what you loved to do when you were a child. How did you answer the question of what you wanted to be when you grew up? The specific answer you gave may have been off the mark, but the underlying impulse was not.
• Second, pay attention to the work you gravitate to.
• Finally, pay attention to what you envy. Jealousy is an ugly emotion, but it tells the truth. You mostly envy those who have what you desire.
• But even if you’re stretching yourself in the service of a core personal project, you don’t want to act out of character too much, or for too long.
• The best way to act out of character is to stay as true to yourself as you possibly can—starting by creating as many “restorative niches” as possible in your daily life.
• “Restorative niche” is Professor Little’s term for the place you go when you want to return to your true self.
• We would all be better off if, before accepting a new job, we evaluated the presence or absence of restorative niches as carefully as we consider the Family Leave policy or health insurance plans.
• A Free Trait Agreement acknowledges that we’ll each act out of character some of the time—in exchange for being ourselves the rest of the time.
• If introverts and extroverts are the north and south of temperament—opposite ends of a single spectrum—then how can they possibly get along? Yet the two types are often drawn to each other—in friendship, business, and especially romance.
• But it can also cause problems when members of these unions pull in opposite directions.
• Probably the most common—and damaging—misunderstanding about personality type is that introverts are antisocial and extroverts are pro-social.
• But as we’ve seen, neither formulation is correct; introverts and extroverts are differently social.
• Your degree of extroversion seems to influence how many friends you have, in other words, but not how good a friend you are.
• This was a painfully common dynamic in the introvert-extrovert couples I interviewed: the introverts desperately craving downtime and understanding from their partners, the extroverts longing for company, and resentful that others seemed to benefit from their partners’ “best” selves.
• It can be hard for extroverts to understand how badly introverts need to recharge at the end of a busy day. We all empathize with a sleep-deprived mate who comes home from work too tired to talk, but it’s harder to grasp that social overstimulation can be just as exhausting.
• It’s also hard for introverts to understand just how hurtful their silence can be.
• It can also be hard for introverts and extroverts to understand each other’s ways of resolving differences.
• Just as men and women often have different ways of resolving conflict, so do introverts and extroverts; studies suggest that the former tend to be conflict-avoiders, while the latter are “confrontive copers,” at ease with an up-front, even argumentative style of disagreement.
• Introverts like people they meet in friendly contexts; extroverts prefer those they compete with.
• But these studies measured how well introverts observe social dynamics, not how well they participate in them.
• Participation places a very different set of demands on the brain than observing does.
• It requires a kind of mental multitasking: the ability to process a lot of short-term information at once without becoming distracted or overly stressed. This is just the sort of brain functioning that extroverts tend to be well suited for. In other words, extroverts are sociable because their brains are good at handling competing demands on their attention—which is just what dinner-party conversation involves. In contrast, introverts often feel repelled by social events that force them to attend to many people at once.
• Advice from a parent who appreciates how a child feels is inherently validating. If your son is nervous on the first day of school, it helps to tell him that you felt the same way when you started school and still do sometimes at work, but that it gets easier with time.
• The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself.
• The structure of the day is almost guaranteed to sap his energy rather than stimulate it.
• We often marvel at how introverted, geeky kids “blossom” into secure and happy adults. We liken it to a metamorphosis. However, maybe it’s not the children who change but their environments. As adults, they get to select the careers, spouses, and social circles that suit them. They don’t have to live in whatever culture they’re plunked into.
• Research from a field known as “person-environment fit” shows that people flourish when, in the words of psychologist Brian Little, they’re “engaged in occupations, roles or settings that are concordant with their personalities.” The inverse is also true: kids stop learning when they feel emotionally threatened. Studies show that one third to one half of us are introverts.
• If you’re a manager, remember that one third to one half of your workforce is probably introverted, whether they appear that way or not. Think twice about how you design your organization’s office space. Don’t expect introverts to get jazzed up about open office plans or, for that matter, lunchtime birthday parties or team-building retreats. Make the most of introverts’ strengths—these are the people who can help you think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems, and spot canaries in your coal mine.

3 thoughts on “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

  1. Pingback: Today’s Links: Baby with Three Parents, What is a Great Book?, Eternal Security, Expository Preaching | Word + Life |

  2. Pingback: 4 Ways to Find Work That You Love | Coram Deo ~

  3. Pingback: 5 Helpful Resources to Help You Learn More About Yourself | Coram Deo ~

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